Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-91 NBC

DAD: Deacon Ernest Frye (Sherman Hemsley) / Widower(?)

DAD’S JOB: Preacher

DAD’S KIDS: Thelma Frye (Anna Maria Horsford) (20’s)


STAND-IN "MOM": Sister Casietta Hetebrink (Barbara Montgomery) (1986-1990), Sister Amelia (Roz Ryan)

I didn’t watch the show, but here’s what alert viewer knows about the series:

"Thelma was an adult child living with her father. Most of the time she was trying to get the preacher (Clifton Davis) to fall in love with her (which eventually happened and they married) The stand in moms were the two sisters."

A clang on the Hop Sing Memorial Dinner Triangle for for the info on "Amen" — Thanks!

Lime Street

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1985 ABC

DAD:James Greyson Culver (Robert Wagner) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Detective / Horse Farmer

DAD’S KIDS: Elizabeth (Samantha Smith) (13), Margaret Ann (Maia Brewton) (11)


STAND-IN "MOM": Evelyn Camp (Anne Haney) / Housekeeper

A series that had a tragic reason for leaving the air.

First a little world history background: Samantha Smith was a young girl who lived in Maine and had a social studies assignment to write to the leader of a foreign country. Samantha picked Yuri Andropov, the leader of the Soviet Union. She asked him why he wanted to conquer the United States. Mr. Andropov read the letter, and invited young Samantha and her family over to Moscow for a meeting in the Kremlin. The story made headlines around the world and brought celebrity to little Samantha.

Enter ABC. The network, just finishing up the success of Hart to Hart, wanted another starring vehicle for Robert Wagner. They found a new show called Lime Street, in which Wagner would play James Greyson Culver, a Virginia horse farmer who also investigated insurance fraud (like Banacek) for a British insurance company. They cast Samantha Smith as Culver’s daughter Elizabeth, and cast Maia Brewton (one of the kids from Adventures in Babysitting) as her little sister Margaret Ann. The show began filming in May of 1985.

Tragedy struck during a mid-summer break in the filming. While returning to her home in Maine, the commuter plane carrying Samantha crashed, ending her brief life. With only a few episodes filmed, the show itself was DOA when it appeared in September, and was cancelled before Halloween.

A wave of the Juliet Mills Memorial Feather Duster to Marni Page ( for pointing out this show. And a flap of the Juliet Mills Memorial Apron to "The Rogmeister" for the show details. Thanks, Marni! Thanks Rogmeister!


Jim 1980s

Dads 1986-87 NBC

DAD #1: Rick Armstrong (Barry Bostwick)

DAD #1’s JOB: Obituary writer for a Philadelphia newspaper

DAD #1’s KIDS: Kelly (Skye Bassett)(13)

DAD #2: Louie Mangiotti (Carl Weintraub)

DAD #2’s JOB: Stonemason

DAD #2’s KIDS: Kenny (12)(Jason Naylor), Allan (Eddie Castrodad)(16)

WHERE’S MOM#1 AND MOM#2?: Dead. And Dead.


Through the auspices of the Museum of TV and Radio, I’ve managed to see an episode of this series.

Dad Rick and Daughter Kelly move into widower Louie’s Philly house. Louie is a more-experienced TV Single Dad, having lost wife Louise (Louie and Louise?) several years earlier. Wacky hijinks, of course, ensue when Louie attempts to teach new TV Single Dad Rick how to be a better Single Dad.

Theme music by Alf Clausen, who gave the world much of the incidental music of The Simpsons.


Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-90 NBC

DAD: Gus (voiced by Edmund Gilbert)/Widower

DAD’s KIDS: Christopher "Kissyfur" (voiced by R.J. Williams, then Max Mier)/under-teen

DAD’s JOB: Ferryboat operator and recovering circus bear

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead somehow. Imagine a horrible circus death.

STAND-IN MOM: Miss Emmy Lou / Teacher of Bears

In the pit of squirming, "pro-social" Saturday-morning cartoons that existed during the 80’s, none could have had a more nails-on-chalkboard name than this series. Just as Beaver Cleaver’s name was a corruption of "Theodore," so did poor Christopher’s mangling of his moniker cause the hideous nickname to be forever associated with this poor cub.

Episodes of this series are strangely available in Wal-Mart cut-out racks on occasion. I have no idea why someone would think of this series as something to be visited upon a child more than once.

A wave of the Papa Smurf Memorial Floppy White Hat to Joseph Doyle, who sent in piles of info on this series. Thanks, Joseph!

Update: Just received a note concerning this review:


I believe you missed the point of my series, it was for single parent children (mostly boys) not for critics like yourself.

Creator of Kissyfur,

Phil Mendez

Fair enough. My son (who was right in the middle of the show’s demographic during the series’ run) agrees with Mr. Mendez. Of course, my son can’t sit through a single episode of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (one of *my* personal favorites Back in the Day) without making finger-down-throat gestures, so there’s many differences of opinion here at the Fortress of Smug.

Heart of the City

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-87 ABC

DAD: Detective Wes Kennedy (Robert Desiderio) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Police Detective

KIDS: Kevin (16) (Jonathan Ward), Robin (15) (Christina Applegate)

WHERE’S MOM?: Brutally murdered

STAND-IN "MOM": Older brother Kevin, the "Rock" of the family.

Wes Kennedy winds up being a single dad after his wife gets snuffed by your typical wild-eyed TV maniac killer. Of course the very neurotic daughter (played by the pre-Married With Children Christina Applegate) blames Detective Daddy for Mom’s death, and Wes has to deal with that animosity. Oh, and juggle the duties of rounding up the other TV maniac killers while dealing with his kids’ wacky hijinks. The tensions of work vs. home created bazillions of story opportunities. Unfortunately, the ratings didn’t support the continuation of this show, and, poof, it was gone after one season. Just in time for Robin Kennedy to become Kelly Bundy. See? There’s plusses and minuses in every show cancellation.

Here’s a wacky tie-in: Robert Desiderio, who played the dad on this show, is married (in real life) to Judith Light, who is, of course, the stand-in mom on Who’s The Boss?, another TV Single Dad show. Small world, huh?

A huge toss of the Porter Ricks Memorial Florsheims to Suzanne ( for pointing out this forgotten show.

…and a wave of the Tony Danza Memorial Feather Duster at Ben Llewellyn for filling in the details on the Stand-In Mom. Thanks very much, Ben!


Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-87 ABC

DAD: The Starman- "Paul Forrester" (Robert Hays) / Alien Reconstituted Guy

DAD’S JOB: Strange Visitor from Another World

KIDS: Scott Hayden (C.B. Barnes) (14)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom, Jenny Hayden, is missing — the search is the story

STAND-IN "MOM": Liz Baynes (Erin Gray), maybe — "Paul’s" photo-assignment manager.

This is a toss-up, on-the-line question: What if Dad is an alien occupying the reconstituted body of another person, and actually was occupying the reconstituted body of another dad guy when he got your mom pregnant?

This show and Sky King generate the most mail from series fans. I mean LOTS of mail. Details about episode-by-episode plot points and minutiae. My advice is: if you want more details about the series, do a search on Starman fan sites.

The mail is very heartfelt about this show. Here’s a quote from "Chuck S." about how he sees the Starman & Son relationship, and the openness of that relationship in the series: One of the best examples of this in the show is a scene when Starman(Paul Forrester) is walking along the beach with Scott, and turns to his son and asks, "How am I doing — as a father?" The boy is stunned (as was I!), and that pretty well sums up the kind of father Starman is.Another scene has Scott turning to his dad and putting his arm around his dad’s shoulders, and saying, "how long do you think you would last without me to take care of you?" I can recall no other single dad role model on TV that was as powerful.Too bad all father/son relationships, or any relationship for that matter, couldn’t be the same. Each needed the other, and each enriched the other in immeasurable ways. And that’s what father-son relationships should be all about.

The actor playing Scott Hayden, C.B. Barnes, is probably better known to movie-goers as Greg Brady in the Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel.

A tap of the Ben Sisko Memorial Communicator pin for Todd Andrews ( for the information about Starman. Thanks, Todd!

One Big Family

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-87 Syndicated

DAD: Jake Hatton (Danny Thomas) / Grandfather – Widower

DAD’S JOB: Retired

KIDS: Don Hatton (Anthony Starke), Marianne Hatton (Anastasia Fielding) (19), Brian Hatton (Michael DeLuise) (17), Kate Hatton (Alison McMillan) (14), Roger Hatton (Gabriel Damon) (8)

WHERE’S MOM?: Killed, along with Dad. Accident.

STAND-IN "MOM": Don Hatton / Eldest Son

Oh, this is SO much like The Ed Wynn Show of the 50’s. Story: Mom and Dad get killed in a car wreck, leaving a Party of Five behind. So, Grandpa moves in to take care of the kids. The eldest son, Don, thinks he can take care of all of them, but Danny – er, Jake – takes over the parental role.

A nice return for Danny Thomas — he only got to play a single dad for a year on Make Room for Daddy, and, under the Mike Brady Clause, that didn’t count.

Better Days

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986 CBS

DAD: Harry Clooney (Dick O’Neill) / Grandfather – Widower

DAD’S JOB: Retired

KIDS: Brian McGuire (Raphael Sbarge)

WHERE’S MOM?: Out in California with Dad

STAND-IN "MOM": Possibly Miss Winners (Randee Heller) / English teacher

A show like this is what makes writing about 80’s Single Dads shows SO difficult. Does it count if Mom and Dad are alive, but the single male parent around supports and cares for the child? My ruling? Yes!

California surf-dude teen Harry Clooney got forced to move to Brooklyn and live with his grandfather, all because his dad lost his job and couldn’t afford to raise Harry out west. So, we wind up with East Coast/West Coast culture clash, and wacky hijinks ensue. Well, they ensued for the month of October, 1986, and then CBS decided it would rather have ratings than Harry Clooney. So, Better Days had its final day just two days before Halloween.

Defenders of the Earth

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986 Syndicated

DAD #1: Flash Gordon / unknown

DAD #1’S JOB: Crimefighter

KIDS #1: Rick Gordon

WHERE’S MOM #1?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM" #1: Unknown

DAD #2: Mandrake/ unknown

DAD #2’S JOB: Crimefighting Magician

KIDS #2: Kshin

WHERE’S MOM #2?: Dead – Dad’s dead too

STAND-IN "MOM" #2: Unknown

DAD #3: Lothar / unknown

DAD #3’S JOB: Crimefighting Magician’s Sidekick

KIDS #3: Lothar, Jr. (L.J.)

WHERE’S MOM #3?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM" #3: Unknown

DAD #4: The Phantom / Unknown

DAD #4’S JOB: Crimefighter

KIDS #4: Jedda

WHERE’S MOM #4?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM" #4: Unknown

This cartoon easily snags the "Most TV Single Dads in a Single Series" award. FOUR- count ‘ em – FOUR crimefighting Single Dad superheros teamed up with their kids on this short-lived syndicated series. Basically, a great way for Creators Features Syndicate to turn their comic strip characters into television stars in one swoop.

Update: Alert Viewer Bianca fills us in with details about Rick Gordon’s mom – – "I just wanted to let you know that under your Defenders of the Earth listing, the Mom#1 info should be ‘dead’ (you have ‘unknown’). Rick Gordon’s mom died in one of the first episodes if not the first episode. Ming the Merciless killed her on the planet Mongo, I think while trying to transfer information out of her brain to find out where Flash was or to get some other type of information that she wouldn’t tell him."

A tap on the Avery Brooks Memorial Communicator goes to Bianca the Gordon info. Thanks, Bianca!

Captain Caveman

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986 ABC

DAD: Captain Caveman ( voice of Mel Blanc) / apparently a bachelor

DAD’S JOB: Crimefighting Neanderthal

KIDS: Cavey Jr. (voice of Charlie Adler) (10-ish)

WHERE’S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

This series shouldn’t be confused with 1977’s Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels, an earlier venture of Captain Caveman. Completely encased inside episodes of Flintstone Kids, this series-within-a-series was not too dissimilar to the format of The Itchy & Scratchy Show on The Simpsons. If memory serves, this show was young Fred Flintstone’s favorite. Another paycheck for Mr. Blanc, in any case.

A flap of the Fran Drescher Memorial Apron to Barry H. for the heads-up on this show. Thanks, Barry!